Why do so few shoppers think of BOPIS as a ‘smooth’ process?

Photo: Target
Feb 03, 2017

Glenn Taylor

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the Retail TouchPoints website.

Only 31.6 percent of consumers describe the process of collecting items ordered online in the store as “smooth” compared to 66 percent that describe online shopping that way, according to the “Great Omnichannel Expectations Shopper Survey” from iVend Retail.

The dissatisfaction with buy online/pick up in-store (BOPIS) represents a significant area of opportunity for retailers, since more than half (57 percent) of U.S. and Canadian consumers said they have ordered an item online for collection in a store.

When it comes to choosing BOPIS, most consumers (65.3 percent) simply want to save on shipping costs. The second most important reason to use BOPIS is convenience, cited by 29.2 percent.

“Many consumers don’t like paying for shipping, and they also don’t want to be inconvenienced by waiting for deliveries,” the report said. “Consider, as well, the widespread reports of packages not being delivered in time for the holidays in recent years, which has understandably led to customers’ frustrations.”

Ranking lower as a reason to use BOPIS was being able to return an item immediately if the shopper doesn’t like it (23.5 percent); being able to deal with an error immediately (20.9 percent); and the appeal of going to the store (17.5 percent).

To improve BOPIS, the report suggests brands should utilize knowledge of previously purchased items to arm sales associates for cross-sell opportunities upon collection. Logistically, retailers would have to master new stock allocation and storage processes for BOPIS to function effectively, as brands that continue to allocate stock for each channel individually will be burdened by excess inventory.

The report states, “There is still work to be done to integrate e-commerce, inventory management, and in-store systems to improve the in-store collection experience for customers.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How can the BOPIS process be improved? Are the challenges similar to those retailers face around improving the checkout and in-store returns experiences?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"Posted signage and/or detailed instructions on the website go a long way to ensuring a smooth experience."
"Too many retailers are used to thinking about how to make their stores inconvenient — to trap consumers inside so they’ll spend more."
"All the technology in the world won’t help the customer if the staff is not properly trained. Easier said than done, by the way."

Join the Discussion!

22 Comments on "Why do so few shoppers think of BOPIS as a ‘smooth’ process?"

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Jon Polin

Saving a shopper the time from roaming aisles to find merchandise is great, but the shopping experience doesn’t end until the customer is happily in possession of that merchandise. Stores need to think of BOPIS as a 360 degree customer experience. Notably, customers who don’t even want to enter a store shouldn’t need to. Stores must enable a customer to push a button on their phone and notify the store that they are outside (or will be in five minutes) so that a store runner is ready and waiting to hand over the merchandise to the customer. Particularly progressive stores are even starting to custom fit their parking lots with both designated BOPIS parking spots and/or drive-thru windows for BOPIS customers. Smart move.

Jasmine Glasheen
Jasmine Glasheen
Contributing Editor
1 year 11 months ago

Agreed on the store runner, Jon. Most customers choose BOPIS to avoid shipping costs. They’re not in it for the interaction with a sales associate (many of which are nowhere to be found). Without car runners BOPIS shoppers face the same inconveniences as those who shop in-store, with the additional hassle of untrained employees not knowing the location of their order.

David Dorf

The key to BOPIS is store inventory accuracy. Without it, the customer is sure to be disappointed. Staff being able to quickly find the right products to set them aside within the SLA is the second step. The actual in-store process varies greatly, but posted signage and/or detailed instructions on the website go a long way to ensuring a smooth experience.

Mark Ryski

BOPIS is still in its infancy for many retailers, and it will get better over time. The logistics and processes required to deliver an effective BOPIS customer experience are considerable and can vary in complexity based on numerous factors including the types of product the retailer sells — shoes are easier than garden tractors.

Check-out and return processes are well understood, but even these are still challenging for some retailers to consistently execute. One key issue that retailers need to consider as they embark on/refine their BOPIS program is store staff. The impact of BOPIS on store staff can be considerable — this isn’t just another task that can be lumped onto existing store staff.

Ross Ely

Retailers need to provide a quick in-and-out pickup experience for BOPIS as opposed to seeking cross-sell opportunities. Shoppers using BOPIS have already completed their transaction and are looking for smooth logistics during the pickup.

Retailers should provide a dedicated area for BOPIS pickup with clear instructions for shoppers on how the pickup process works. Once shoppers become comfortable with the pickup process, they will be more open to increasing their BOPIS purchases with cross-selling and impulse buying during their online shopping sessions.

Lee Kent

My personal experiences with BOPIS have been mixed, however the bottom line in all cases has been that I could have run into the store and gotten the item just as easily (minus the payment part of it). The pickup location was hard to find, there was only one person staffing the location, there were people waiting, it took forever to find the order and the list goes on. It seems to me that many retailers are simply trying to use existing staff, without proper training and well defined procedures, and that is what creates the chaos.

Love the concept and want to see it work so my 2 cents says let’s give it some time to work out the kinks.

Bob Phibbs

Didn’t we read here a few months ago that 40 percent of BOPIS orders are never picked up? All this to save shipping costs — which are mostly free?

They don’t want to be waiting for deliveries? Do you think they’re being inconvenienced waiting for Amazon?

I don’t see how this is a money-making initiative for many retailers and the idea to arm associates with cross-sell opportunities, when they really are order pickers, flies in the face of reality.

Charles Dimov

Currently we are still in market education mode. Last year estimates were that 49 percent of Americans tried click and collect. So retailers need to push that they have the capabilities and let all their customers know about it. After all, there is upsell and additional sales opportunities when people come in to collect their items (61 percent according to ICSC in Holiday 2016 period).

Once we start to advertise it more heavily, in-store and at the mall, it has to be super easy to spot the special areas where you can collect your items. Like returns, it has to be a GREAT service experience to make it stick, and to make customers want to do it again.

Nikki Baird
Nikki Baird
VP of Retail Innovation, Aptos
1 year 11 months ago
Retailers have to decide: are they going to make the in-store pickup as convenient to the shopper as possible, or are they going to make it “inconvenient” in the hopes that it keeps the shopper in the store longer, spending money on an incremental trip? Some retailers have gone after the former — putting pickup at the front of the store and staffing it well, with trained employees and a system for managing in-store inventory and recording picks. Some retailers have gone after the latter — forcing consumers to walk all the way through the store to the back to pickup and all the way back to get out, or they don’t have the inventory accuracy to promise what they’re promising, or they don’t have regular staff available who know how to manage in-store pickup or customer service issues that might arise at pickup. It is about saving money for shoppers, but it’s also about convenience. Too many retailers are used to thinking about how to make their stores inconvenient — to trap consumers inside… Read more »
Ben Ball

To the original question: Why do so few shoppers think of BOPIS as a “smooth” process?

Because they still have to drive to the store, park and go inside, deal with people and then carry their stuff to the car and drive home. What part of that process answers any of shoppers’ major complaints about the shopping experience?

BOPIS was doomed from the start. The only thing that has a chance is curbside pickup ala Kroger.

Cathy Hotka

I agree with Lee Kent. When the BOPIS process takes longer than traditional shopping, the customer experience suffers. I use it only when I know the item is available only online. At the last Store Operations Council meeting, participants talked at length about the challenges they face to get the experience right. All agreed that better signage is a start.

Ralph Jacobson

This is one of those areas where human execution of business process is a critical success factor. All the technology in the world won’t help the customer if the staff is not properly trained. Easier said than done, by the way.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.

I tend to agree with many of the previous comments. Obviously, this is one of the reasons that brick-and-mortar retailers are slow to adopt omnichannel. However, the options to return merchandise immediately, deal with an error immediately and/or go into the store on the same trip are significant advantages vis-à-vis pure online retailers. Therefore, efforts to get the logistics right can provide real supplemental tangible benefits to BOPIS.

Shep Hyken

Why have BOPIS? Simple. The customer doesn’t want to spend time walking through aisles and searching for merchandise. Having it ready and waiting is all about convenience. Sounds pretty simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

Retailers must manage inventories so ensure customers don’t defect to another retailer because the store is out of an item. At that point, the store loses a competitive edge.

Retailers must make it super easy and fast for a customer to come in and pick up their items. Don’t make them wait. Some stores will even have curb-side delivery. Easier is better.

Finally, a good retailer may have someone assigned to mange the experience for the customer. That means going over the order, making sure it’s all there and thanking the customer. And, the best stores will cross sell based on the items, making sure the customer leaves with everything they want. (Example: If the customer buys a can of paint, do they need paint brushes to go with it?)

Harley Feldman

I think David is right on — knowing the store inventory is key. The message from the online site accepting the order to the consumer is the item will be available when the consumer gets to the store. While store operations can be adjusted to provide better service, nothing can be done to fix the disappointment of the item not being available in the store once the consumer has traveled there.

The best way to solve this problem is to involve the suppliers to support consigned inventories in the stores. The Internet of Things (IoT) and RFID technologies can provide the supplier with the real-time visibility to insure the right products are in the store to meet the demand and satisfy the BOPIS orders. By moving the inventory risk from the retailer to the supplier, who has every incentive to satisfy the consumer demand, the consumer would be assured when the pick up in store button is pushed, their item will be available when they get to the store.

Herb Sorensen

Just maybe it IS disastrous, often enough, to be turning people off. I don’t have an answer, but I certainly see the problem clearly: Bricks retailers are “merchant warehousemen,” skilled in managing inventory through stores by delivering pallets there. Their stock clerks move that merchandise to displays in mass amounts. And their unpaid “stock-pickers”, aka shoppers, pick individual items for transport to checkout — and home.

It’s mass (pallet) movement, vs. item, individual purchase movement. And BOPIS expects the retailer to do the stock-picking FOR the shopper. (Who’s paying for THAT?)

Wonder why the world’s premier logistics organization — Walmart — struggles to make this work? You think paying stock-pickers is just free, and easy-peasy for an industry built on unpaid stock-pickers? This marginal disaster is destined to continue for a long time, until some realistic solutions are found. Hint: It will probably NOT involve 50,000 sq. ft. stores. (Here comes Amazon Go!)

Ken Morris
While many retailers have rushed to offer the BOPIS service for their customers, there have been a lot of reports that retailers are not executing these services effectively or efficiently. I recently ordered a product for store pick-up from a major retailer and it was definitely not a smooth experience. When I arrived at the store, they had two special parking spots for “Online Store Pick-ups,” which I took as a good sign that the retailer is committed to BOPIS. The store had a special counter for online merchandise pick-up, however, nobody was staffing this area. Finally someone came to assist me, but they acted like they didn’t know how to find my order. It took another 5 minutes for them to bring my merchandise to the counter. Then I had to fill out a form to confirm my order. The process seemed clunky and it didn’t make me what to order online for store pick-up in the future. Understanding inventory in real-time will improve the process but the technology is only one leg of… Read more »
Lee Peterson

We did a study on BOPIS three years ago and what customers really wanted was to pull up in front of the store and have someone put their online purchase in their trunk, by FAR, vs any other method. In other words, not go into the store. We did a similar study this year to see how things have changed, and guess what? They haven’t. People still want BOPIS drive up more than any other method.

So, if you’re looking for a reason why it’s not going smoothly, start there: it’s not being done right (except in the tests Walmart is doing).

Vahe Katros

The answer lies in the title of this piece. The anxiety over waiting is not always tied to the process. It’s connected to the psychology of how one handles the experience.

To be sure, designing the mechanics around a process is key — but if you have a drive through, and your store personnel have experienced busy moms with crying kids in the past, perhaps giving away lollypops might not be a bad idea.

Tony Orlando
In my humble opinion, it is because of the infrastructure of the stores, and either updates are needed to redo the front of the store, or a brand new state of the art concept store should be built to makes this really work. I simply could not do this in my store, and many others are struggling to make it work, only to find out it is a problem. There are some pretty smart designers who would love the opportunity to do this type of project on different scales for all types of retailers, and I’m sure it may already be happening. For supermarkets, it is the toughest job of all as it requires a whole new front end set up, similar to a mega drive thru, that meets local zoning and safety codes from the fire dept. and that can be worked out. I would put it on the side of a new free standing store, so as not to disrupt the front-end foot traffic. It would be easier to build new coolers, freezers,… Read more »
gordon arnold
Until store managers and district managers own a bonus plan that is structured around and itemized for the success of sales by market plans under the roof, BOPIS, returns and over/under bought in-store inventory will continue to eat away at customer loyalty and company growth. Worrying and planning for strategic store recovery needs, receipt count and $ amount, and store associate coverage levels has no positive value to the needs of customers. Out of stock issues as seen from the customer perspective only is the loose canon that destroys sales, profit and customer loyalty. Stores focus on and work to halt any and all customer delays. If a new or existing plan such as BOPIS is creating customer delays, it must be repaired immediately or taken off line until the issues causing delays are resolved and tested. Any and all routine maintenance, deliveries and stocking need to be done after store hours or using dedicated personnel during the slowest selling. Time, qualified assistance, and product availability are the fuels that e-commerce feeds off of brick… Read more »
Glenn Hansen
1 year 11 months ago

If a retailer discovers what it would take for their BOPIS to provide a GREAT customer experience and do it, they could give themselves a competitive advantage. They would need clearly defined processes and behaviors and execute them flawlessly.

"Posted signage and/or detailed instructions on the website go a long way to ensuring a smooth experience."
"Too many retailers are used to thinking about how to make their stores inconvenient — to trap consumers inside so they’ll spend more."
"All the technology in the world won’t help the customer if the staff is not properly trained. Easier said than done, by the way."

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